traci's Reviews > Pretty Is What Changes

Pretty Is What Changes by Jessica Queller
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Jul 13, 2011

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I was excited about this book for two reasons. One, it's authored by a writer from Gilmore Girls, one of the most well-written television shows ever aired. Two, it's about a 30-something New Yorker who faces her risk of breast cancer, which like me, is around 90%. I wanted the combination of BRCA information, personal anecdote, and good writing to help me sort through a few things in my own life.

I was disappointed by this book for two reasons. One, the writing was not what one would expect of someone who writes for a living. It was subpar, at best, and cliche at worst. While the story was moving, it had nearly nothing to do with the writer's ability to tell it.

Second, I couldn't get myself to like -- and thus identify -- with Jessica. This is not her fault, but her editor's. She spoke often of how many friends she has and how beautiful they find her and how many weekends she spent in the Hamptons and how many stunning Hollywood execs she dated. She writes about her friendship with Calista Flockhart in a way that only indicates that she wants you to know she is friends with Calista Flockhart. If she had made these points more subtly, it would not have overshadowed the sad, traumatic death of her mother; her brave choice to remove her breasts at 36; her incredible story of living with a gene that threatens to kill you in truly ugly ways -- and having the opportunity, thanks to advances in biomedicine and technology, to stop it.

Ultimately, the book had the opposite effect of what I had hoped-- a cathartic way to figure out what having the BRCA gene means in my own life. Instead, I put the book down wondering if I am too nonchalant about the whole thing. If, like her, I should tell everyone I know, talk to everyone who has ever had breast cancer, and get a baby in the oven as quickly as possible before taken out all of my organs.

But whatever failings I perceive the book to have are only because I had such personal, unattainable expectations for it. On its own merits, this is probably an interesting read for those who want to know more about the BRCA gene, a woman's new right to choose, and a coming of age story for those of us approaching our 30s. It also has some great stories from the Gilmore Girls set. But if you, like me, need to see yourself reflected back in the pages of this book, you're going to need a house in the Hamptons and Calista Flockhart on speed dial.
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